Fifteenth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#15 First Independence Day Fireworks (1777)
On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress, convening in Philadelphia, voted to declare the American colonies independent of England. The document formalizing this declaration (the Declaration of Independence) would be adopted and ratified two days later. But on the 3rd, in between these events, John Adams wrote of the importance of the event to his wife Abigail:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other, from this Time forward forever more.”* (Note: Adams thought the 2nd would be commemorated as the holiday.)
Following that sentiment, the very first commemoration of Independence Day on July 4, 1777 was celebrated with fireworks in both Philadelphia and Boston, as Colonel Thomas Crafts set off a display of fireworks over Boston Common.**
Fireworks were indelibly linked to American Independence Day celebrations from that moment on. Every year celebrations occur around the country, with ever more impressive and expensive displays.
In Boston, the fireworks on the 4th are accompanied by our own tradition: the Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Shell, an outdoor concert venue on The Esplanade, a riverside park that is part of the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) Charles River Reservation. On July 4, 1929, the Boston Pops Orchestra, led by renowned conductor Arthur Fiedler, held the first concert. This was the first free outdoor concert anywhere in the world!
The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular as we know it became an annual event beginning in 1973. The following year saw the introduction of a new custom, as the 1812 Overture was accompanied by Howitzer cannons!
The only two signers of the Declaration who became President of the United States, John Adams & Thomas Jefferson, both passed away on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration.
Fun fact #2:
Did you know that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner, the American National Anthem?
*Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, “Had a Declaration…” [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
**Researched by James R. Heintze. All Rights Reserved. American University, Washington, D.C.; source: Boston Gazette, 7 July 1777